Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkelaba House was abuzz, packed with more than 200 people last Sunday celebrating the month-long exhibition Energie Nouvelle–New Energy. The works of 53 artists-solely of Haitian descent, almost 100 pieces, are on exhibit including traditional, realistic, cubist, and abstract paintings. Watercolors to spray paint, collages, sculptures, and black and white images by four photographers are on display.
“We put out an open call, internationally, the first one ever, and made our selections from 200 submissions,” says Patricia Brintle, one of five from the “Artist Forum,” who organized the exhibit.
On Aug. 30 at 3 pm, five exhibiting artists will participate in a panel at the Gallery, 214 E. Second St. in Manhattan, discussing issues of the feelings of Haitian artists and what they think of the future of Haitian art.
Exhibitors in this show run the generational gamut, some in their teens to two in their eighties. And these Haitian artists live all over too: Canada, Austria, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Florida, and the New York region. At least two-thirds were at the reception.
Art lovers, friends and fans couldn’t believe the variety of art produced from the Haitian community, says Brintle, “It’s not all coconut trees or naïve art.”
The Artist Forum collaborated with the Haitian Consulate, which offered support, inviting those from its vast mailing list and bringing in a wider audience. They also helped with the reception.
The Artist Forum and Consulate organized the show well aware that there is a plethora of artists in the community and that “artists don’t know how to promote themselves.”
The host space Kenkelaba House is perfect for this exhibition, as it is dedicated to the exhibition of artworks by African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American artists. The Gallery sponsors exhibitions, often exploring historical or thematic issues, and hosted “Save a Museum
Exhibit and Sale,” in September 2013, to raise money for Haiti’s Musee d’Art that was heavily damaged in the earthquake.
Gallery Director Corinne Jennings greeted attendees at a brief welcoming presentation.
The fact that the gallery is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan didn’t stop a Proclamation presented to the exhibitors from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (read by Patricia Brintle). Congress Member Mathieu Eugene was in the house, too.
“Some frequently-exhibited artists wanted to be ‘invited’, but that’s not how we did it,” said Brintle “All the artists needed to submit their work.”
Seeing how popular this exhibit is, they’re no doubt sorry.
A new group of five will constitute next year’s Artist Forum to collaborate for another exhibit.
“We’ll be alumni and act as advisors,” says Brintle.
The show sold out its artist’s catalogue with a statement from each artist and reproduction of all the work on exhibit.
Now that this exhibition is assembled, Brintle would love for it to travel and be exhibited at any local university gallery like Columbia or Brooklyn College or other suitable gallery space.
Energie Nouvelle at Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkelaba House. [219 E. Second St. in Manhattan. (212) 674–3939]. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 am–6 pm.